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The Lone Star Blues of W.C. Clark

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On his new album, 'Texas Soul,' W.C. Clark proves his mastery of a time-honored genre

By Nicky Baxter

W.C. Clark of Austin, Texas, is a potential "blues" star waiting to be discovered. Actually, the title of his new release, Texas Soul (Black Top), is a far more accurate description of what Clark does. The album's broad canvas is a stylistic tour de force whose core contains both the ancient lament of the deep blues as well as R&B's urbane grit.

The first track tells part of the story. "I Only Have Love for You" is vintage Al Green material: a leisurely Memphis stew percolating with arranged horns, understated keyboards and Clark's twanging guitar occasionally burbling to the surface. Vocally, Clark seems to have absorbed Green's spirit; if you didn't know any better, you'd think it was the Reverend himself. "Reminiscing" finds the singer/guitarist revealing that he can deliver a ballad with the best of them, including Brook Benton and Bobby "Blue" Bland. And, judging by Clark's rhythm guitar playing, he's studied Curtis Mayfield's pioneering work.

Clark's choice of Sam Cooke's "That's Where It's At" is a good one; who needs another version of "You Send Me"? Already tinged with the gospel-blues, Clark immerses the tune even more in that enduring hypenated idiom. Wide-open horns, T-Bone WalkerŠstyled fretwork and Clark's cookin' croon make you appreciate the relatively obscure tune that much more.

"Why Do Things Happen to Me" is Bland all over--from the throaty growl to the trademark aching falsetto. Admittedly, Clark's strongest suit is his ample grasp of the history of black vocal music, but given the collective short-termed memory of too many U.S.-born Africans, somebody's gotta remind us that this was how we did it.

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